Speakers for safeguarding workers’ rights
LAHORE: The rights of all workers irrespective of their country of origin should be fully protected as regards `decent living and working conditions’.
This was observed by speakers at a consultative workshop here on Friday.
International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) organised the event to seek inputs to address `decent work deficits of workers, including women/children, from Afghan refugees and hosting communities’.
Zahoor Awan, General Secretary Pakistan Workers Federation, UNHCR representative Yasir Ayaz Khan, representative of Employers Federation of Pakistan Ahmad Husnain, Syed Zaigham Khan from Punjab Labour Department and Ms. Kanwal Tariq from the Commissionerate of afghan Refugee (CAR).
They stressed the need to empower the Afghan refugees and their hosting communities in Pakistan through skill development to enable them to play a positive role in the socio-economic development of Pakistan.
They said while enabling the refugees to make a positive participation in Afghanistan’s development, on return to their country, under the Afghan Refugees Management and Repatriation Strategy.
They said skill development should focus on the Afghans access to livelihood programmes, employment and decent work opportunities.
Despite return of over 5.7 million Afghan refugees to their homeland since 2002, there are still over 1.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, including 202,832 Afghans who are residing in various districts of the Punjab after migration from their home country.
In addition to the registered refugees, there are about 300,000 Afghanistan natives whose registration needs validation while around one million unregistered Afghan refugees were also residing in the country.
The target for repatriation in 2013 was yet to be agreed upon by the government of Pakistan and Afghanistan, while further extension of the Proof of Registration cards validity, beyond June 30, 2013, would be decided by the new government in the centre.
Dr Saifullah Chaudhry, Senior Programme Officer of the ILO said a consultative process began in May 2011, under ILO and UNHCR’s joint collaboration to develop a multi-year project with focus on three elements-voluntary repatriation, sustainable reintegration and support to host communities.
After commissioning of two baseline research studies in Quetta and Peshawar, it was felt that similar work be initiated in Punjab and Sindh as well.
He said the key findings of the studies carried out in Peshawar showed poor social and economic indicators for both Afghan refugees and host communities.
Most respondents from the two communities surveyed were engaged in construction masonry, cattle feed production, textile mills, carpet weaving, leather goods manufacturing or working as meat sellers and rag pickers and reportedly earning less than the minimum wage.